Exploring the Place of a Biosphere Reserve in the Igalirtuuq Conservation Initiative

The purpose of this research project was to trace the history of the Igalirtuuq Conservation Initiative with particular emphasis on the biosphere reserve component. Interviews were conducted with representatives of different organizations at the local, regional, and national levels. Examples of these include the Igalirtuuq Steering Committee, Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association, Parks Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Documents related to the initiative were also analyzed in order to help trace this long history and to identify successes, challenges, and trends in the practices associated with conservation and environmental governance.

The work by those involved in the conservation initiative resulted in the simultaneous pursuit of a National Wildlife Area Designation and a Biosphere Reserve proposal for the Igalirtuuq area during the 1990s. At that time, negotiations began for an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement. Emphasis in negotiations was placed on conservation, research and education, and sustainable development in the region. These aspects were consistent with the goals of biosphere reserves and resulted in support from the Canada/MAB committee for designation of the region as a biosphere reserve. Research shows that the negotiation of the Niginganiq National Wildlife Area (NWA) as required by the Nunavut Final Agreement took quite some time to accomplish, and that during this time priority was placed on the development of the NWA with the understanding that a biosphere reserve could follow in time. This was because without a legally protected area such as the NWA, the proposed biosphere reserve could not be designated. While the NWA was being negotiated and finalized, ideas about what constitutes a biosphere reserve changed at international and national levels. Designations of biosphere reserves in Canada are now closely associated with local level implementation and management. Once formed, they are form part of a national network.  It is not clear whether a biosphere reserve is still on the agenda in Clyde River at this time; however, interviewees, policy documents, and academic research suggest that key ingredients for a biosphere reserve should include: power and information sharing, financial and human capital, adaptiveness and flexibility, and linkages across multiple levels if biosphere reserves are to fulfill their mandate: that is, to become learning sites for conservation, sustainable development, and research and education.

Project leads: 
John Kearns, Maureen Reed – University Saskatchewan